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Austin Montgomery's Friday NCAA Tournament gambling picks (presented by DraftKings)

It’s the NCAA Tournament the best gambling event of the year. The college basketball slate hasn’t been great, but the only thing matters is what you do in the tournament. Last year we dominated, and we are looking to do the same.

We have a lot of plays per usual, but there's one trend that needs to be discussed: Bet the first half under. First half unders have hit at nearly 60 percent rate on the first day of the tournament since 2009. A lot of this is because of nerves, irregular start times, non-traditional gyms, and refs tend to hold their whistle.

All odds are provided here by the DraftKings Sportsbook - which has an incredible offer below for first-time users.

Here are the games we are targeting specifically for the first half under:

No. 14 Montana State vs. No. 3 Texas Tech: West Region, 1:45 p.m. ET, TNT

Texas Tech ranks first in defensive efficiency and they are bottom 200 in pace. It’s a 10:45 a.m. local start time in San Diego. The Red Raiders are elite on defensive and hit & miss on the offensive end ranking 281st in shooting percentage and 291st in turnover percentage.

Montana State also rebounds at a Top 25 rate, meaning there won't be a lot of second chance points for the Red Raiders.

My only worry is Montana State fouls at one of the highest rates in the country. Texas Tech plays pretty physical. If we get refs that are just a little slower with their whistle, this under hits easily.

The Pick: First half under 62

No. 12 UAB vs. No. 5 Houston: South Region, 9:20 ET, TNT

You may turn your head here, what about Jelly Walker for UAB? He’s averaging 20 points per game, and the Blazers are absolutely electric. The problem is Houston is going to provide tons of pressure with Jamal Shead and Taze Moore, and will get the ball out of Walker's hands. The Cougars rank first in the nation in opponent field goal percentage. UAB has had issues with turnovers recently giving the ball away 16 times against Louisiana Tech and 20 against Florida Atlantic. Houston wins game in the mud. This will be a rock fight early.

The Pick: First half under 63.5

Now let's get to a more traditional gambling preview, with some other picks:

No. 10 Loyola (-1) vs. No. 7 Ohio State: South Region, 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS

Everyone and their mom loves Sister Jean here. I don’t blame them the Ramblers have made noise in the NCAA tournament their last two appearances making a Final Four in 2017 and making the Sweet 16 last season. That was when Porter Moser was at the helm. This is Drew Valentine’s first NCAA tournament. Ohio State coach Chris Holtman has been there and done that. Ohio State is experienced and have bunch of guys who felt the heartbreaking loss to Oral Roberts last season.

Also, this Loyola Chicago team isn’t as good as the other teams in year’s past. There is no Cameron Krutwig to give them automatic buckets in the half court. Loyola Chicago allows a lot of their shots to be blocked and EJ Lidell is going to feast inside. A lot of this pick depends on the health of Kyle Young. I think Ohio State is undervalued here. Their form going into the tournament could be better, but I the four day reset was good for them. Give me Ohio State in this spot.

The Pick: Ohio State (+1)

No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 Alabama: West Region, 4:15 PT, TNT

Defense is optional for both teams. The only way Alabama wins is if they outscore you. Norte Dame's guards are going to have trouble staying in front of Jaden Shackleford and Javon Quinerly. Bama ranks 14th in offensive efficiency and 12th in pace. Norte Dame doesn’t turn teams over and that is usually Bama’s undoing. Norte Dame ranks in the top 26 in offensive efficiency. Prentiss Hubb, Blake Wesley, and Paul Atkinson will score in bunches against Bama’s poor defense. Enjoy the points.

The Pick: OVER 152

No. 15 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 2 Duke: West Regional, 7:10 ET, CBS

It’s fade Duke season. The Blue Devils haven’t covered a Vegas number in nearly a month. They are playing a Titans team that is playing with house money. They were picked seventh in their league in the preseason and won their conference tournament has the fourth choice. Tennessee transfer EJ Anosike has more putback baskets than anyone in the country. GCU and USF transfer Damari Milstead is playing with a sense of purpose, as he is playing in memory of his late childhood friend Oscar Frayer passed away from a car accident last year. Milstead has scored 17 or more in six of his last seven. Duke losing to a 15 seed is kinda of normal, they have done two times in the past 12 years. Fullerton is tough, their gritty, and they love their coach- they are not afraid of him. Screw Duke, take Fullerton.

The Pick: Cal State-Fullerton (+18.5)

No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Davidson: West Regional, 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s the Foster Loyer revenge game. The former Michigan State Spartan, who is going to drop a 20 point peace on his former team. Davidson is unstoppable when Loyer is on. He is averaging 16.3 points on 44.3 percent from three. Plus Davidon has the Korean Steph Curry in Hyunjung Lee who is also averaging 16.0 points.

Michigan State is below average team when you look at the advanced metrics on shot quality, and their one strength - size down low - could be matched by Davidson big man Luka Brajkovic. The Spartans defense also doesn’t force any turnovers (328th nationally), and I think it may struggle with Davidson’s uber-efficient motion offense.

The Pick: Davidson Money Line

No. 9 TCU vs. No. 8 Seton Hall: South Regional, 9:57 p.m. ET, TruTV

TCU is one of my favorite teams. These two play very similar styles, and it's going to be a war down low. TCU ranks first nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Seton Hall is without their playmaking guard Bryce Aiken. The Hall is 0-4 against top 50 opponents without Aiken in the lineup.

Big 12 teams are going to do well in match ups like these because they have had to go through a gauntlet of elite defenses. Seton Hall can only win one way and TCU length is going to make it hard for them to get points inside. Love TCU in this spot here.

The Pick: TCU (+1)

Follow Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive


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